A Scots woman is urging people to be aware of the signs of an incurable condition that has left her struggling to walk even short distances.

Claire Smith, from Blantyre, was diagnosed with Raynaud's disease at the age of 40, and had been living with the symptoms for years before eventually getting it checked out.

Now 46, Claire dismissed her symptoms as minor nerve damage - but now struggles to walk and experiences severe Raynaud's attacks.

The disease, which is as common as hay fever or arthritis, affects blood circulation, most commonly in hands and feet, and causes painful attacks.

Charity Scleroderma and Raynaud’s UK (SRUK) says awareness of the disease is “woefully low” and has warned that millions of people could potentially be living with the incurable condition without realising.

HeraldScotland: Claire Smith's hand.Claire Smith's hand.

“It didn’t really have an impact on me at first; I was still doing everything living my life," Claire explained. "Now though, even just opening the fridge and taking something out like the milk carton can affect my fingers.

"When I'm making dinner, if I take a plate out of the cupboard, the coldness of the plate - or even the cutlery - can start a Raynaud’s attack. It’s horrendous. It takes about half an hour to get the feeling back into my fingers."

The charity is warning that the condition affects around 10 million people in the UK, and Claire is urging fellow Scots to recognise the signs.

What is Raynaud's?

Raynaud's disease causes parts of your body, normally your toes and fingers, to feel numb and cold in response to cold temperatures or stress.

What are the symptoms?

According to the NHS, signs and symptoms of Raynaud's include:

  • Cold toes or fingers
  • Colour changes in your skin when it is cold or you are stressed
  • Pain and numbness
  • Pins and needles
  • Difficulty moving the affected area

The NHS say some people also find that their ears, nose, lips or nipples are affected.

What are Raynayd's 'attacks'?

According to SRUK, cold temperatures and stress can trigger ‘attacks’. This causes blood vessels to constrict and temporarily stop blood flow, most commonly to the hands and feet.

During an attack, affected areas turn white and blue, and become numb. As the blood begins to return, limbs turn red and become painful. 

What can you do to help Raynaud's?

The NHS advises that you can often treat the symptoms yourself by keeping warm. They say wearing warm clothes during cold weather can help, as well as exercises regularly to improve circulation.

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They say anyone who believes they are affected shouldn't smoke, and should not have too much caffeine as it may trigger the symptoms.

When should you call your GP?

You should see your GP if your symptoms are very bad or seem to be getting worse, or if it is affecting your daily life.

You should also take a trip to the doctors if your symptoms are only on one side of your body, or if you also have joint pain, skin rashes or muscle weakness.

If you are over 30 and get symptoms for the first time, the NHS suggest checking in with your GP; similarly, if your child is under 12 and has symptoms, they should get it checked out.